Todo Bajo el Sol: Spanish graphic novel explores history of mass tourism | Spain

The opening pages of a brand new graphic novel charting Spain’s lengthy, worthwhile and infrequently counter-productive relationship with tourism present 4 fishermen hauling their boat on to a Mediterranean seaside already within the early phases of occupation by the brand new breed of international holidaymakers.

Whereas the fishermen, rendered in monochrome to replicate their looming obsolescence, heave their boat ashore, a vacationer, drawn in color, sits beneath the shade of his seaside umbrella and prepares to check a guidebook produced by the Franco regime.

Comparable juxtapositions permeate Ana Penyas’s Todo Bajo el Sol (The whole lot Below the Solar), which is devoted to “those that needed to abandon their hometowns and to those that ended up as strangers in their very own land”.

Penyas, who turned the primary feminine writer to win Spain’s national comic prize three years ago, stated the concept for the guide got here to her within the spring of 2018, when the talk on sobreturismo – or over-tourism – was changing into inescapable.


By then, worries over gentrification, the proliferation of vacationer rental properties, the quantity of large cruise-liners pulling into Spanish ports and the dire employment circumstances of some hotel-workers had raised questions concerning the sustainability of the the nation’s tourism mannequin. That they had additionally led to anti-tourist graffiti and even assaults on motels, vacationer bikes and the odd tour bus.

“All that was occurring, and I used to be additionally fairly linked to actions to guard neighbourhoods from tourism and gentrification,” Penyas says.

“However after I thought of what I wished to put in writing, I knew I didn’t need to restrict myself to a snapshot of that individual second – not least as a result of issues can get out of date in a short time.”

The writer, who was born in Valencia, finally opted to observe the history of mass tourism in Spain from its inception below the Franco dictatorship within the late Nineteen Sixties, by means of the heady days of increase and bust and into the present period of Airbnb and boutique motels.

The story is advised by means of three generations of the identical household, whose lives replicate the profound social, cultural and financial adjustments Spain has skilled in the course of the previous 50 years.

“The household allowed me to a approach to narrate all these items; they’re the cement that holds all these totally different points collectively,” says Penyas.

Because the guide begins, Spain is heading into the ultimate years of the dictatorship and younger persons are leaving their inland properties and villages, lured to the coast by the promise of work within the new motels.

An excerpt from Todo Bajo el Sol, by Ana Penyas
Alfonso, one of the novel’s protagonists, is rewarded for his arduous work as a waiter. The field comprises a memento plate that reappears on the finish of the guide. {Photograph}: Penguin/Random Home

The writer makes use of overdrawn stills from a 1967 Swedish movie known as I Am Curious (Yellow), to spotlight guests’ attitudes to holidaying in Franco’s Spain. When requested if they’re bothered concerning the regime, they reply: “Properly sure, however I favor to not speak about it”; “You overlook about all that if you’re over there”; and “I don’t speak about politics after I’m on vacation.”

Penyas was eager to discover the Franco regime’s main position in growing Spain as a vacationer vacation spot, and equally anxious to dispel the parable that the international guests and their free and straightforward methods one way or the other posed an existential menace to the dictatorship.

“It wasn’t like that,” she says. “The regime was the driving pressure behind tourism and noticed it because the uncooked materials for Spain’s improvement. Any issues it precipitated had been seen because the lesser of two evils. It additionally helped the Francoist mayors and the massive households and lodge house owners to get wealthy.”

Penyas says Francoism is “within the DNA of Spanish tourism”.

An excerpt from Todo Bajo el Sol, by Ana Penyas
Within the first part of the novel, which begins in 1969, Penyas presents a snapshot of Spain’s east coast because it shifts from small coastal villages to large resort motels. {Photograph}: Penguin/Random Home

Because the novel progresses, it takes in vital moments within the nation’s latest history, from Spain’s entry into the EU in 1986 to the late Eighties La Ruta Destroy clubbing scene, and from the property increase of the Nineties to the devastating financial crash of 2008.


Villages retreat as tourism marches farther inland, developments are redeveloped, neighbourhoods reconfigured and younger Spaniards – together with one of the household’s daughters – head overseas to seek out work.

As Todo bajo el sol concludes, the primary cycle of mass tourism has come to an finish, its gaudy, Nineteen Sixties knick-knacks now kitsch museum items in their very own proper. However the socioeconomic penalties are already irrevocable. On the final web page, the mom of the household seems to be on the towering fashionable city round her and asks: “Do you bear in mind when all this was orchards?”

An excerpt from Todo Bajo el Sol, by Ana Penyas
Alfonso will get a job as a waiter on the Palace lodge, the place he’s advised to deal with the international friends with the respect they deserve and to ‘serve them what they need earlier than they’ve even ordered it’. {Photograph}: Penguin/Random Home

The basic intention, says Penyas, was to have a look at the enduring impression of a sector that generates about 12% of Spain’s GDP and to discover the notions of “good tourism” and “dangerous tourism” – and other people’s preconceptions about each. Or, because the writer places it: “I didn’t need simply to be criticising Benidorm.”

Sure, there’s high-end tourism and low-end tourism, “however on the finish of the day, the dynamic is identical as a result of they’re each created by the capitalist system” she says. “I actually wished that to be clear.

“Some individuals go: ‘No, however I journey otherwise.’ You possibly can go and keep in a spot within the centre of city, however you’ve bought to surprise what needed to have occurred for it to be there. You don’t know.”

Late final month, the Spanish government announced an €11bn (£9.5bn) package to assist tourism and hospitality sectors climate the Covid pandemic. The much-needed help is additional proof of Spain’s decades-long reliance on international guests.

“It’s been determined that hundreds of jobs will rely upon this and that is how the financial system’s been constructed,” says Penyas. “I hope issues will change, however who is aware of? I’m not very optimistic.”

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